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Nursing Graduate Connects Campus Donors to Patients in Need
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Nursing Graduate Connects Campus Donors to Patients

A Notre Dame College graduating senior’s community health project may be saving the life of a lymphoma patient.

Sarah Rak, who will receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree May 5 from the College, coordinated  a bone marrow and peripheral (circulating) blood stem cells, or PBSC, donation drive on campus.

A Notre Dame junior who joined the national registry at the event has since been found to be the primary match for a 55-year-old man with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, spleen and other organs of the immune system.

Junior Joseph Pavelek recently traveled to the East Coast to donate circulating blood for the cancer patient─who is no relation to him.

"I didn't know about the registry, about donating bone marrow or circulating blood until Sarah brought the drive to campus," Pavelek said. "The most important thing is for people to realize they can help others through donation, they can help others they do not even know."

Rak, who was named Outstanding Graduating Senior in Nursing Presented by the Greater Cleveland Nursing Association, and Pavelek, who won a Hoover-Takacs Award for Excellence in English, recently connected at the 2013 Notre Dame Honors Convocation─upon Pavelek’s return from Virginia.

“When I discovered that Joe was a donor, I was filled with joy and excitement to hear that he was a perfect match! I am inspired by Joe's enthusiasm and commitment to serving as a donor,” Rak said. “Joe has a heart of gold, and I simply cannot thank him enough for becoming a donor.”

While serving as the community health director for the Ohio Nursing Students’ Association, Rak, whose dream is to work in pediatric hematology/oncology, implemented a community health project in hopes of changing the lives of patients battling life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and other blood disorders.

She conducted the Be The Match Registry bone marrow and PBSC drive on campus last year. Pavelek was one of several students, faculty and staff who provided a tissue sample through a mouth swab during the event. 

“I became inspired by the fact that all of us could be a part of saving the lives of many by simply expanding the bone marrow donor registry to increase the chances of finding a perfect match for those in need of a transplant,” Rak said.

Joe learned he was the primary match for the lymphoma patient in March. He donated in April and will remain available to provide additional circulating blood for that patient throughout the next year.

"It is one thing to be taught to do good for others. It is something else to actually do it," Pavelek said. "When something like this happens─the drive is held on campus, you get the call that you are a match─it is easy to brush it off. But when you get the opportunity to do something like this, you have to act."

All those who are between the ages of 18 and 60, who meet health guidelines and are willing to donate to any patient in need, can join Be The Match registry. Additional information about joining the national registry and donating bone marrow and circulating blood is available on the Be The Match website.